Tag Archives: bamboo

Framework House hits the Press


Designed and constructed in partnership with local community groups, Habitat for Humanity Cambodia and COLE. Framework House delivers a safe & structured way of providing housing to low income & at risk communities. It gives Public and NGO housing providers a way of structuring community involvement without risking inflated project costs. The design allows for infill wall & floor materials that are site specific reducing the overall cost & carbon footprint. These infill areas allow for expansion and extension of the property over time by residents once skills have been shared through construction.

Our Framework House design recently made it into many online articles such as Designboom, Domus, Inhabitat and more…



If you would like to write an article about our Framework House project please get in touch.

And see some more photos of the final design:



Thanks for reading,


Bamboo Trees: Building with Bamboo in the Laos Jungle

For 3 weeks in April, I had the fantastic opportunity to assist in hosting Building Trust’s latest design + build workshop in the Laos jungle. With a team of international volunteers, Laos workers and Building Trust staff we completed the build of an innovative fundraising merchandise store for Free the Bears.


Following the construction of several built projects in South East Asia using natural materials and seeing the growing interest and response in sustainable design and natural materials such as bamboo. Building Trust organised a Design + Build workshop to be held at Kuang Si Falls on the outskirts of Luang Prabang with Free the Bears. Working alongside Atelier COLE, a new merchandise store was designed and built which educates both workshop participants and the high volume of annual tourist visitors to the Tat Kuang Si Park on building with bamboo.


Free the Bears work tirelessly to combat the illegal trade in live bears and provide a safe sanctuary for any rescued bears at Tat Kuang Si Rescue Centre. Most of the bears at the centre are Asiatic Black Bears (Moon Bears) that were illegally captured from the wild as young cubs. It is likely that they were destined for use in the traditional medicine trade. The merchandise store will enable Free the Bears to sell items such as T-shirts, in order to receive much needed donations to allow them to continue their ongoing efforts to protect bears in Laos and beyond.


The fluted fountain like canopies protect the deck area by catching rain water and passing it through the gravel filled, hollow, circular foundation footings. As with all Building Trust projects the Bamboo Trees project worked closely with the local community who in this case were Khmu. They assisted in sharing local skills such as bamboo, rattan weaving and palm thatching which were later used to develop the roof of the structure.


The bamboo is complimented by rope (around 10 kilometres) that spirals around the structure, weaving each piece together and creating strength from the whole. The resulting tensegrity structures lean against each other in a tripartite vault.



You can see more photos of the construction of Bamboo Trees Here and be sure to check out more about Free The Bears!

Thanks for reading!



Building Trust are designing and building teacher housing in Battambang with SeeBeyondBorders. The pilot house will hopefully be the start of a wider roll out of both housing for teachers and new classrooms for students…

Check out the latest images from site:




I look forward to updating on on the final week of the build with completed photos very soon.

Thanks for reading,


Saving wildlife through building community led eco-lodges in Cambodia.


Building Trust international have worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and SVC on a new eco-lodge designed and built by the local community, NGO partners and through a hands-on participatory design and build workshop. Building Trust were requested by WCS to work with the local community in Tmat Boey, in the north of Cambodia to design
and construct a new lodge facility for WCS and SVC’s well established ecotourism project. The project is located in Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary and is managed by the Ministry of Environment.

Birdwatchers from across Asia and beyond flock to Cambodia for a glimpse of two of the world’s rarest birds: the giant ibis and its cousin the whiteshouldered ibis. The birds’ nesting grounds sit at the outskirts of Tmat Boey, a rural village where WCS and SVC have worked with the community to develop an eco-tourism project. This ground breaking project has turned
village farmers into custodians of the natural habitats the wildlife around them inhabit. Protecting threatened forests and in doing so providing an income to the whole community.

Mixed materials

The design makes use of natural materials such as earth and bamboo. An adobe mix was created to place on the external walls with a lime plaster used to form a smooth, clean finish. Bamboo was sourced locally and used to create the roof and side wall facades. Recycled plastic bottles were collected from the local community and used to help create a staircase to reach the lodge itself, while also educating on the importance of recycling and reusing materials.

The roof goes up
It is hoped the newly designed lodge will attract wildlife enthusiasts from Asia and beyond who will benefit from the sustainably built lodge. The adobe and lime plaster has a cooling effect creating a natural airflow throughout. The new building features moveable swinging windows which were built from locally sourced timber and can be positioned to allow guests to watch wildlife from the comfort of their own room. The overhanging split roof was used to create a frame protecting the natural materials within. The concept of the wrap around angled roof is based on reducing solar gain on the walls and defining the building against the dense canopy.

Local community help on site
The workshop itself allowed for the crossover of skills between the Tmat Boey community, local contractors and Building Trust volunteers. Working alongside the community ensured the project was owned by the people it supports. Building Trust are due to host a number of design and build workshops throughout 2015 promoting natural building, community
engagement and sustainable construction techniques.

In constructionCommunity ConsultationBamboo and adobe

Revisit to MOVINGschools

In May, the BTi team visited Mae Sot to gain an update on our MOVINGschools and also to see an exciting new project working with Ironwood to renovate schools within the border town.

First we visited MOVINGschool 001 which looked in great shape, which even had a family of birds nesting in our bamboo blinds.

birdhome Classrooms May 2014

We also visited New Road school and were given a kind gift from one of the teachers; a photo of her pupils using their new school building for their end of year exams.


It was great to see the school renovation project our friends at Ironwood had been working on and see where our donation to the project went.

Classroom Rehabilitation

We hope to give updated annually from our MOVINGschools to keep you up to date with how the buildings are doing.

School Test

Moving Schools Project: Week Two on Site:


After managing to put in the first foundation post at the end of last week, our determined and energetic volunteers worked through the weekend and managed to fix three further foundation posts on site. The team worked through heavy rain, attempting to remove water from the foundation holes before they filled up with new rain water. It was great to see their clear understanding of the tasks, each volunteer knew their role and worked together as a team to construct the foundation posts in a quick and efficient manner.

Placing first tyre into Foundation hole
Placing first tyre into Foundation hole

It takes a great deal of patience and careful orientation to place the truck tyres into the foundation holes. The wires which can be seen in image above plot out the central line of the foundation post. It is very important that the wires remain in the correct place to ensure we have an accurate measurement across the school grid.

Finished foot foundation post


On the last day, many of the school students helped out the volunteers to carry gravel to the holes. It was great to see the kids excited about the school project and get involved in lending a hand on site.

We were very sad to loose nine of our volunteers on Tuesday, as they returned to Hong Kong for their Summer break. Ashley, Airi, Stephanie, Charity, Chung, David, Hin, Nicholas and Jim made an incredible impact on the school site and we are very grateful for the help they offered over the last month. Thankfully, Jim will remain with us for another month and our UK volunteers Claire, Ben and Mark will continue to help out over the next week.

HK Volunteers
HK Volunteers

As we awaited recruitment of new volunteers to assist with the foundation posts and with a day of continuous heavy rain the remaining volunteers spent Wednesday at the Global Neighbors workshop. The workshop team had managed to drill all the required holes in the steel and cut to the correct dimensions to allow us to assemble the first classroom module. With great excitement the team assembled the steel construction simply slotting the steel plates in place and bolting together.

Fixing steel components together
Fixing steel components together

It was very exciting to see the pieces come together and gain a real understanding of the size and scale of one school classroom module. It was also very reassuring to know that in no time at all the unit was assembled.

Steel frame
Steel frame

We had the great opportunity to finally see how the bamboo wall panels which the G’yaw G’yaw workers made a few weeks ago would sit inside the steel frame. The frame slotted inside the frame perfectly and the combination of the dark metal steel frame looked fantastic next to the natural bamboo wall panel.  We cannot wait to see how one fully assembled unit with full wall panels, flooring and roof will look very soon.

Bamboo wall panel and Steel frame
Bamboo wall panel and Steel frame


Now that we have tested the first module we can confirm all dimensions with the workshop and order steel for the ten classroom modules. Over the next few weeks the apprentices at the workshop will be plotting, marking out and drilling many holes to create the final steel frame structure. The steel will be brought to the school and assembled on site. In the meantime, there is lots of painting to be done!

Painting foundation feet
Painting foundation feet

Off to work we go


Bright and early on Monday morning, the Building Trust team and volunteers met at the DK Hotel in Mae Sot to await our escort to the Global Neighbors workshops in Mae Pa. We have been very kindly offered the workshop facilities to develop and design the modular school classroom. Before setting off, the volunteers were given a run through of Safe Tools Use and watched a 20min video entitled the ‘ABC Of Hand Tools‘ The very simple cartoon allowed the volunteers to have a basic understanding of to use hand tools correctly and how easily they can be misused.


With the arrival of our ride, the volunteers piled into the Picturebook truck to be taken up to the workshops along with Saw Dee and Si Da Pa, two highly skilled carpenters/bamboo workers who will be working with the group this week. They have worked on several school projects in the area and were hired to teach the volunteers about the uses of bamboo. They worked with Norwegian Architect Line Ramstad through the G’yaw G’yaw Organisation. Gyaw Gyaw is committed to construct buildings to the benefit of Karen refugees in Burma and Thailand.

Before we could start using the bamboo and seeing how this material could be used to create our wall panel structures, Saw Dee and David travelled to pick up material supplies for the day. While myself and the volunteers awaited the materials we played a few team building exercises to make sure everyone would communicate clearly and be aware of each other in the afternoons building workshop. The first activity was a drawing game.

Volunteer Team Building
Volunteer Team Building

I first split the group into pairs giving one person from each pair a simple drawing of a cat placed on the top left of a blank piece of paper. The other team member then had to draw the picture which was described to them in shapes by the team member with the original drawing. It sounds difficult but the teams seemed to enjoy the game and as we tried a second round with one player drawing their own image to describe to the other team the communication between the pairs developed and the teams were faster at drawing the correct image.

The next game involved trust and working together as a team to get the best possible solution.  The volunteers enjoyed the mornings activities of getting to know one another a bit better and to understand how important it is to ensure everyone has a clear knowledge of the task to be achieved each day.

Volunteer Team Building Morning
Volunteer Team Building Morning

Just after lunch Saw Dee and David arrived with the materials needed to build the wooden frames. The volunteers quickly ran to the truck to help unload the bamboo, wooden planks and woven bamboo sheet into the workshops. We were quick to learn that Saw Dee believed that the machetes they had purchased did not have a high quality handle, so decided to search the workshop for a better piece of wood and then make their own. Within an hour Sawdee and Si Da Pa had made 3 new wooden handles for their machetes.

New wooden handles are fixed to the machete
New wooden handles are fixed to the machete

With machetes at the ready, Saw Dee kindly began the bamboo workshop and discussed the many ways bamboo can be used. He first  cut a piece to length then used the machete to take any rough edges off the sides. Then slowly cut into the bamboo, tapping all the way down. Saw Dee said to cut one piece of bamboo would normally take 15mins, however the lesson took slightly longer so the volunteers and BTi staff could gain an understanding of how to do it ourselves.


After cutting the bamboo, Saw Dee unfolded the bamboo and began to flatten, using the machete to remove any hard edges found along the inside of the bamboo. The piece was then attached to a further two pieces of flattened bamboo and attached inside a wooden frame to create the bamboo infill wall panels.

It was great to see the skills shared between the local workers and the International volunteers, the group worked well together and slowly but surely we were getting the hang of using bamboo. Saw Dee and Si Da Pa will be working in the workshops all week to finish the wooden frames for one classroom unit.

Yesterday, the volunteers began clearing the ground and digging holes for foundations with the hope that we can complete one steel frame with infill wall panels over the next week. So keep reading to see how the build progresses!

And one panel is completed.

Finished Bamboo Wall Panel
Finished Bamboo Wall Panel

After cutting 3 pieces of bamboo and flattening then fitting inside a wooden panel fixed with a mortise and tenon joint and two tapered down teak dowels. Now another few to go so we can complete one classroom module!

Finished Bamboo Wall Panel
Finished Bamboo Wall Panel

Timelines and Tours

LIVE UPDATE from the Moving Schools Project:

Please check out the first video footage from the ‘Moving Schools‘ project showing the volunteer site visit to the MTC Medical Training Centre and the CDC School dorms. Please watch and share!

Burmese and Karen History/Culture project

On Thursday we met up with the volunteers to see their presentations on the Burmese and Karen History/Culture project. The teams split into their groups and went over each others work.

Volunteers present their Timeline Project
Volunteers present their Timeline Project

The first to present was the Green group, their timeline was set from 1951 – 1970 and they found out many key events such as, Burma was granted independence from Britain in 1948 and details about the ‘Four Cuts Operation’ of 1970 when the army targeted people supporting the guerrilla rebels by cutting food, information, recruitment and financial support. The team also looked into the topics of religion and art. The team focused on the mixture of Christianity and Buddhism within the Karen and were also aware that there is a large number of Muslims living with Burma.  Within the topic of art they discussed the strong Buddhist influences in their sculpture and painting and also spoke of the architecture which they believed was strongly influenced by Indian culture.

Timeline 1971 - 1990
Timeline 1971 – 1990

The next group presented what they had discovered during the period from 1971 – 1990 and the topics of music and language. The group discussed how in December of 1974 the biggest anti-government demonstration to date was held and also spoke of the 8888 Uprising in 1988, which was started by students in Yangon and spread throughout the country. The group also looked into the music and language of the Burmese and Karen people. The team found out about the ‘Saung Gauk’ a type of Burmese harp, ‘Hne’ a type of oboe, ‘Mi Gyaun’ a crocodile zither and the ‘Myanma Saiwai’ a type of drum.  They also discovered that there are around 100 languages with a variety of different dialects. In the Karen language alone they found about the Sgaw, Pwo and Pa’o. It was great to see the teams enthusiasm for the work they had carried out.

The final team looked into the history of  1991 – present day and found that there were many key moments in history that happened during this time period from Aung San Suu Kyi being placed under house arrest in 1989 to making her first trip outside Burma to Thailand visiting Mae Sot on 2nd June.  Political leader, Aung San Suu Kyi remained under house arrest in Burma for almost 15 of the 21 years from 20 July 1989. The team also looked into the location of the Karen and Burmese people finding that more than 250,000 Karen reside in Western Thailand. They also found that most Karen lived in the Karen State in Eastern Myanmar.

Karen Fashion
Karen Fashion

They discussed how since 2005, more than 50,000 Karen refugees have been resettled in Western countries such as USA and Canada. The teams second topic was fashion, where the group drew images of the clothing typically worn and found out about ‘Thanakha’ which is a Myanmar tradition of face painting which is used as sunblock and to cool the skin. They also found out that red was a very important colour in the clothing of the Karen and that women wear garments with covered shoulders until they are married.

Thanakha Myanmar Face Painting
Thanakha Myanmar Face Painting

The volunteers seemed to really enjoy the project which gave them a bit of background about the people who they will be building a school for over the upcoming weeks.

In the afternoon, we arranged a tour of the Mae Tao Clinic for the group to allow them an understanding of the great work the clinic carries out every day. People of all ethnicity’s and religions are welcome at the clinic. Its origins go back to the student pro-democracy movement in Burma in 1988 and the brutal repression by the Burmese regime of that movement. The fleeing students who needed medical attention were attended in a small house in Mae Sot.The group were to discover that 8 babies had already been born that day and that this was a common occurrence. Today, it serves a target population of approximately 150,000 on the Thai-Burma border.

Tour of Mae Tao Clinic
Tour of Mae Tao Clinic

After the tour of the Mae Tao clinic the volunteers got back on their bikes to cycle out of town to see the MTC School dormitories which  were designed by Albert and Jan, local architects for the clinic. We were very lucky to have a tour of the dorms by Jan who took us through the adobe brick structures which are cool all day and the new dorms which were constructed in 2 weeks made by locally sourced materials.

Volunteers check out adobe structure
Volunteers check out adobe structure

Slowly after our tour by Jan the heavens opened and the volunteers and the Building Trust team took cover in one of the bamboo dorms. Thankfully after a few hours of playing games and chatting we managed to catch a lift back into town leaving our bikes to pick up another day.